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Mobile messaging apps challenge marketers to get as personal as possible

Brands such as WetSeal, Universal Studios, Clarks and the Insidious film franchise have all dabbled in in-app messaging to engage and excite social media users, proving the method is an effective strategy in alluring consumers, especially millennials. These brands have pulled in a substantial amount of younger consumers, a demographic that is hard to placate, with personal approaches through messaging platforms. 

"Brands looking to engage their audience need to work with platforms that millennials use to communicate," said Eyal Pfeifel, chief technology officer of Imperson. "Young audiences do not use email, and hardly browse the web, so social networks and messaging apps are the best channels for reaching them in their natural environment. 

"As this is a growing trend in the industry, brands should start planning their conversational, messaging-based engagement strategy, and adopting to a whole new paradigm of direct, personal engagement with the audience," he said. 

Messaging with millennials
The digital-first demographic uses mobile messaging applications and social media channels more than other sectors of apps. Millennials rarely surf the Internet or use email. 

The elimination of these marketing platforms makes the young consumer more difficult to reach. However, these social media users may be open to more unique and innovative methods. 

Apparel brand WetSeal showcased how to engage millennials by immediately gaining a large following on Snapchat after partnering with teenage YouTube sensation, Meghan Hughes. Ms. Hughes had control of the brand?s account for one weekend prior to the winter holidays, in which she engaged with users showing them her everyday life. 

The YouTube star shared photos of her playing with her dog, baking cookies and a Christmas light display, all while wearing WetSeal apparel. The brand gained 9,000 new followers following the messaging takeover. 

Another example is Footwear manufacturer and retailer Clarks that created an engaging experience with an interactive storytelling event through messaging application WhatsApp to drum up sales of its Desert Boot (see more). 

Users could message with characters based off famous personas in history, who were known to wear the boot. 

Implementing narrative tactics into messaging apps can draw in fans of a brand, as users can become wrapped up in the storyline, and using a messaging platform places them directly into the story.

"Chat is inherently a more intimate and personal form of communication than broadcast-oriented platforms and channels, and so the opportunity that brands have in this space is to leverage the one-to-one relationship and create an experience that somehow brings value to the user i.e. customer service, a story that they can guide, a character they can relate to, or information that fits their needs," said Russell Ward, President of Massively. "The biggest and most obvious benefit is that you can have a one-to-one conversations vs. one too many broadcasted conversation with your audience. 

"Beyond that, it is completely permission-based marketing, users opt in and control the experience," he said. "Chat-based marketing lets users control the experience once they opt in too, the timing, and even the platform are their choice.

"We also reward users and customers for engaging with us, but creating challenging, exciting, delightful stories that offer an experience."

Horror films gain a substantial advantage with messaging apps as well, as it allows the brands to leverage fans? established interest in scare tactics. Being apart of a horror film plotline through messaging heightens the fear experience for users. 

Universal Studios? Unfriended and the Insidious franchise demonstrated the wide range of possibilities through messaging to drum up awareness over the films. 

Unfriended engaged more than 100,000 consumers through Facebook Messenger, as the antagonist of the film terrorized users through threatening messages. The messages followed the film?s plotline and treated consumers as if they were a character in the storyline (see more). 

Insidious: Chapter 3 took a similar tactic by having users converse with its main character, Quinn Brenner through Kik messaging app. Users were taking on a eerie journey as she updated them on frightening events occurring in her house and in her life (see more).

Conversational practices
Marketers should jump into this method of engaging users soon, as the practice is becoming increasingly popular. Those foraying into this area should not think of these efforts as one sided. 

Consumers are interested in engaging with brands they love, but as technology evolves marketing is becoming much more personal and two sided. Customers are controlling how they want to be marketed too, which makes direct conversations with them ideal. 

Brands using a mobile messaging experience such as this should be wary of the technology they choose. It is important that the event brings something to the table that users want to engage with. 

For marketers, using generic chat bots can create a more one-sided approach. These brands should focus on making the experience as personal as possible. 

"Reward your audience with interactions that matter to them," Mr. Ward said. "That could be anything,  a hilarious story they can participate in, a puzzle that challenges them, a quiz that provides a little personal insight, or a conversation that gives them a voice. 
"People want to engage with brands, so do not think of messaging apps as one-way marketing," he said. "Marketers always know what they want to say to consumers, but this is a golden opportunity to listen to individuals. 

"One of the real advantages of nurturing relationships in messaging is that the consumer can communicate with you and feel that they have been heard. Sometimes that is hard to do at scale on broadcast or social media platforms, but Massively is working to make it successful."

Final take
Brielle Jaekel is editorial assistant at Mobile Marketer